I was having a discussion recently with friends about how some of the most in-depth reporting taking place these days is in books written by journalists. Before I had the chance to write about it here, the much more adept Jack Shafer has written about the interest and the impact of what he dubs "newsbooks." The most obvious reason for the existence of newsbooks is time—or lack of it.
The scoops found in the newsbooks indicate that the competitive pressure of the daily deadline buries as much potential news as it unearths.
By standing outside of today's news cycle, newsbook authors can recognize patterns and make connections that escape beat reporters filing four or five pieces a week.
Sure they sometimes lack deadline-breaking earth-shattering news. But maybe what they give is a chance to look at current events in some context, to connect the dots of daily journalism into a broader narrative. Sometimes that's worth the read, sometimes it isn't.
But as Shafer points out, there's clearly a demand. Just look at the current New York Times Bestseller List for nonfiction.
Let's reserve the final credit for the newsbook's ascent to readers, that much-maligned group that is said to crave a diet exclusively composed of shorter news stories, gossip columns, and blog entries. Every time they buy a newsbook, they're voting with their dollars for complex, in-depth journalism. Isn't that good news?
On an unrelated but somewhat similar note, UPS today delivered Woodward and Bernstein: Life in the Shadow of Watergate, by Alicia C. Shepard. Published by Wiley, which incidentally is celebrating its bicentennial in 2007, the book has grabbed me right from the Preface. Think I'll have to put all other reading aside right now to zoom through this one. Expect a review here later next week.